Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia was born to a prominent family in Wenchi, Brong-Ahafo. Educated in Cape Coast at Mfantsipim School and Kumasi at Wesley College, Busia progressed to study at the University of London by correspondence, earning a degree in medieval and modern history with honors. Busia then matriculated to Oxford University as the first African student to attend the university. He completed his Ph.D in 1947 in social anthropology, defending a thesis titled "The position of the chief in the modern political system of Ashanti: a study of the influence of contemporary social changes on Ashanti political institutions."
Busia returned to Ghana after earning his degrees from England, taking a leadership position in the Legislative Council representing the Ashanti Confederacy. Busia was an early opponent of Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah. He headed the Ghana Congress Party which later merged with other parties to become the primary opposition party to Nkrumah's Convention People's Party. This party was formed due to concerns of Nkrumah's growing absolute power, stemming from tribal discontent in Accra in the late 1950s. Nkrumah destooled non-CPP chiefs in Ashanti Region during this time and concerned a number of other legislative leaders. As a result of these concerns, the Ghana Congress Party merged with a number of other smaller parties to form the United Party.
Nkrumah became increasingly paranoid that there were threats to his life from political opposition and passed the Preventive Detention Act in 1958. This act allowed for the incarceration of an individual for five years with no charge or trial, with only Nkrumah having the power to exonerate the accused. Believing that his life was in danger, Busia fled the country in 1959 and continued his academic career in Europe, taking a professorship at the University of Leiden before become a fellow at St. Antony's College, Oxford University. While on the run, Busia was expelled from Parliament on 26 June, 1959.
After the Nkrumah government was overthrown in 1966, Busia returned to the country and later became Ghana's second Prime Minister from 1969-1972. He was overthrown in absentia as a result of a coup headed by Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.